Processes Underlying Gender-Role Flexibility: Do Androgynous Individuals Know More or Know How to Cope?


  • Cecilia Cheng, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
    The author is grateful to Chi-yue Chiu, Chong-fong Yang, Shui-fong Lam, and Alison Lo for their constructive comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article. Thanks also go to Pak-cheong Chung, Roslind Sukendar, and Violet Sze for research assistance, and participants for their time taking part in the pilot/main studies.
    Preparation of this article was supported by Research Grants Council's Competitive Earmarked Research Grant HKUST6078/99H and Direct Allocation Grant DAG02/03.HSS10.

concerning this article should be addressed to Cecilia Cheng, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong. E-mail:


Abstract This research examined gender-role flexibility across a variety of stressful events, and tested two proposed hypotheses that explicate the processes underlying gender-role flexibility. The knowing-more hypothesis posits that androgynous individuals have a broad coping repertoire. The knowing-how hypothesis posits that androgynous individuals know how to cope according to changing situational characteristics. The coping responses of Chinese university students were assessed in both real-life (Study 1) and hypothetical (Study 2) stressful situations. Results revealed that androgynous participants, who were less depressed than others, were characterized by (a) cognitive astuteness in distinguishing among situational characteristics and (b) deployment of strategies that fit specific situational demands. Results supported the knowing-how hypothesis only.